Second thoughts about the Boston Marathon


Last week, I did my long run with my much-speedier, 20-something teammate Kylie (and I survived). As is the case when you're running with someone, conversation topics morph from food to work to love life to friends to hobbies, but the discussion always circles back to running. As we finished the last miles of our run, we talked about marathons. I am slated to run the Boston Marathon again this April. Kylie has never done a marathon, but is in no particular hurry to do one. "I think I'm going to run my first marathon when I'm 40," she mused. (Not a bad idea. I ran my first 26.2 at age 49.).

After we parted, I finished my scheduled mileage solo. That's when the realization hit me like lightning: I am not at all excited about running Boston this year. I felt sad when I realized this, but I also felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders: I was finally able to put a name to the the "blah" frame of mind that had been trailing me like dark cloud every time I thought about running Boston. By contrast, I am super stoked about running some of the shorter spring races (5K to half marathon) that I prefer.

I don't necessarily have to run Boston. There's still time to change up my spring training plan. But not much time. To race well, you really need to train specifically for the races you are going to run. Since I'm more of a 5K-10K specialist, training for a mileage range from 3.1 to 26.2 miles is not the most efficient use of my time. When I registered, I thought I would just run the Boston Marathon for "fun," with no goals beyond enjoying the experience and considering it a long training run. Now, I'm wondering in retrospect if this was a bad idea.

I want to be transparent in this blog to help other runners who are facing similar quandaries. I'm also hoping that writing my thoughts will help me come to a decision, which I will need to do soon. Either I will decide not to run Boston, or I will somehow muster up my marathon mojo and get excited about running it.

Before I present my case, let me express gratitude at being lucky enough to face this first-world decision. I've traveled to many developing countries where simply owning a pair of shoes is a luxury. Where there's no time for therapy or self-exploration because people are too busy figuring out where their next meal is coming from or how to keep their kids safe from the cross-fire of gang warfare. I am super blessed to have the health and means to be able to run and race, period. So I am keeping my perspective. It's all good. Whatever I decide, it's small potatoes in the scheme of things.

My case against running the 2017 Boston Marathon

  • I ran Boston last year, and I can't imagine topping the wonder of the experience.
  • I am not a marathoner. Yes, I can run marathons. Yes, my times were respectable for my age and experience. But 26.2 is not my "thing" in terms of either talent or interest. Every runner is predisposed to being better at certain distances. I'm better at 5K to 10K, decent at half marathons. I also prefer shorter distances because I like the adrenaline rush/endorphin bath I get when running fast. 
  • I am not crazy about the Boston course – lots of hills and downhills, so it's quite technical. Not a PR course. 
  • Training for and running a marathon is super hard on your body, especially as a masters runner. Especially on a hilly/downhilly course like Boston.
  • Training for a marathon requires a huge time commitment. 
  • Marathon training will increase my odds for becoming injured and for not being able to race and/or do well in the shorter races I prefer and tend to be better at
  • I want and need a break. I've done 3 marathons in the past 2 years, Work is stressful and busy. Life is stressful and busy. Running is an outlet and keeps me sane, and I want to keep it that way. I don't want running to become yet another stressor. I'm fairly sure I want to run another marathon; there are several on my life list. But if I am going to invest all that time and work into training for a marathon, I damn well want to be excited about it.

My case for running the 2017 Boston Marathon

Rereading the list above, these are all cogent reasons to not run Boston. If a friend had written this, I would urge her to not run. But I am not one to make rash decisions, so of course, I'm examining the counterpoints:

  • Running Boston remains an elusive, lifelong goal for many runners. Many runners struggle to qualify at all, even after much hard work. I easily qualified for Boston in all 3 marathons I've run. Yes, I worked hard and I deserved to qualify. But I feel like not running would be wasting an opportunity for which I should be extremely grateful.
  • Budget-wise, I already paid for the marathon, booked an Air B&B room and bought a flight. I could exchange the flight and would get a partial refund on the room. But I would lose the marathon entry fee. (On the other hand, I could use the savings on the other items, plus meals, etc to take a much-needed vacation).
  • I love marathon training as much as I hate it. All you 26.2-ers know exactly what I'm talking about. 

So, I'm going to let this marinate for another week or so. 

What do you think? Should I run the Boston Marathon again – or not? Please answer the poll below.

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Do you think I should run the 2017 Boston Marathon? free polls